Thursday, January 5, 2017

The write stuff

I like this space that Blogger has very kindly helped me carve out for myself. It’s a place I can give the words that knock around in my head a more permanent home. Rob can often tell when I have something to blog about. I start writing in my head. Phrases and word plays start to form. I go quiet because I am quite busy. I don’t speak because the conversation in my head is rather distracting.

Although this is the primary spot I give my words air, I also occasionally write in other forums. Dinky online magazines, organization newsletters, Trip Advisor reviews (I have 28,234 points…whatever that means), and the two larger newspapers in my county have all featured my thoughts in one way or another.

Since I don’t have any formal writing or journalistic training, I have relied on my best hunch how to write for these different audiences. My gut says the styles and tones and structures are different. What that exactly means and looks like, I really have no clue. So I take my best guess and write my best words and hope that they serve their purpose well.

The challenging part is when they don’t.

Through a series of conversations, divine timing, and heartbreaking events, I recently was given the opportunity to write a story about a friend whose inspiring battle with cancer ended a couple of weeks before Christmas. The newspaper that ran the story has gone through some pretty major changes since I last wrote for it about three years ago, not the least of which is the editor – my contact – is no longer there.

My new contact is a young man half my age pretty fresh out of journalism school. Which puts his training and on-the-job writing experience leaps and bounds beyond my own.

About a week and a half after JR died, I sat at his dining room table with his wife and a box of Kleenex.

My conversation with Gretchen was both blessed and therapeutic. Although I consider her and her family dear friends, my role as an interviewer allowed me to ask Gretchen questions I had never asked before. I got to know my friends on a different level, with new depth and expanded love.

With a page of notes in purple ink, I arrived home, nestled myself on our couch, and started writing. I had a very clear sense I was simply to write. No outlining, no organizing, no editing. Just writing.

I wasn’t quite sure how to start.

I read a text that JR sent one of his daughters shortly before he died. There was one quote I knew I wanted to use. I typed it into my document just to save it. As soon as JR’s words appeared on the top of my page, I knew I had my opening. The rest came rather easily from there.

I know very little about music. I’ve never played an instrument and I can’t read notes. But I have long sensed that words can be like songs. When I am writing, I often choose a word or insert a period or play around with clauses to impact the flow of my words. When my words and fingers are flowing best, it feels like a song is being composed. I sense pace and rhythm and beats.

As I wrote JR’s story, it became a love song. To him, his wife, and his three daughters. I had been adrift how to support and best love these dear women in their grief and in my own. I had taken food, I had given hugs, I had sent texts, I had even gone to a tattoo parlor (as an observer). But as I started writing, I realized that the one unique, totally personal gift I could give this beloved family was my words.

I sent Gretchen the draft for input and approval, further proving I am not a professional reporter. With a couple minor changes, I sent her and the newspaper my final version along with a carefully chosen photo of JR wearing his favorite sock monkey hat.

My contact thanked me for the piece, asked for a few more photos, and explained he would probably need to edit the article a little. I expected that. I had purposely not asked about word limits or any other guidelines; I knew I needed my words released without distraction. The prior editor had made small but important changes to my past articles. His decades of professional writing experience showed in small but mighty ways, making me even more appreciative of the opportunity to write for him.

JR’s story appeared yesterday.

I scanned the two photos. No sock monkey hat.

I read the article. No sock monkey hat story.

The rest of the words were all mine. No obvious changes, not even to punctuation. But the order was all different. Paragraphs that had been at the end were now at the beginning. Things were all jumbled around. What had once been an unfolding story of a goofy but Godly life concluding softly with a funeral bathed in tie dye and camouflage was now a choppy series of moments and memories that started with the funeral and ended even more abruptly.

I suppose to a newspaper person, I had “buried the lead.” To them, the story was probably the uniquely fun dying request of a man to have all attendees at his funeral wear either tie dye or camouflage. So they moved that part to the beginning and cut and pasted the rest in some order that made sense to them. It’s their newspaper. It’s their right and their job.

While the logical side of me understands the changes, the creative side of me is heartbroken. Those are my words but it’s no longer my song. The gift I wanted to give to Gretchen and her daughters has been rewrapped and repackaged.

Writing is a personal, vulnerable endeavor. Especially when you are sharing your heart. Which is pretty much what I always do when I write. A writer disagreeing with an editor is hardly novel. For those who write for a living, I imagine it’s as much a part of the experience as deadlines are. Which is one more reason why I am so in awe of people who carve a career from writing…and why I can’t imagine ever doing so myself.

-------------------


JR's Story -- A Celebration of a Goofy, Godly Life


“Cancer’s gift is perspective. I’ve been given the last three years to spend time with my family and friends that many don’t get. I plan to keep living every day I have left as the blessing I’m being given.”

JR Roberts texted those words to his oldest daughter Kayleigh the day after Thanksgiving, just a few short weeks before his hard fought battle against Mantle Cell Lymphoma ended on December 12, 2016.

JR – who was not a fan of his given name of Wilford and went by the letters “JR” since a cousin already claimed the moniker “Junior” – spent most of his 47 years in Battle Ground. The only time spent living outside his home town was when JR was in the Marines training and then serving as a Combat Engineer in Iraq during the Gulf War. He graduated from Battle Ground High School in 1987. He was known to more recent Tigers as the owner and driving instructor at 1st Choice Driving School who loved to wear tie dye t-shirts.

JR met his wife of 26 years while they were both in high school. Gretchen remembers first meeting her love on a Friday night in April 1984.

“My friend Linda wanted to go hang out with a new boy named Tom. Tom brought along a friend named JR. The first time I saw JR, I was on a 3-wheeler and he was leaning up against a dirt bike.” To those who knew JR as an adult, his choice of resting post comes as little surprise.


JR loved hunting and being outdoors. He taught all three of his daughters (Kayleigh, 24; Melanie, 21; and Hannah, 18) how to hunt and fish. Many childhood photos and memories of his girls are clothed in camouflage and blaze orange. During the three years since his cancer diagnosis, JR put a priority on spending quality time with friends and family – often in the fields and woods of Arizona, Texas, and Washington hunting for deer or wild pigs.


JR was blessed to experience some life milestones during his three-year cancer fight.

In June 2015, he and Gretchen took a cruise to Alaska. It was a long-held promise and the first vacation the couple had ever taken by themselves.

In September 2015, JR walked his daughter Kayleigh down the aisle at her wedding. Both father and daughter had hankies as they danced to “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle.


This past summer, JR and Gretchen took a meandering road trip without deadlines or itineraries. They ate BBQ in Kansas City, visited Mount Rushmore and Sturgis in South Dakota, paid their respects at the memorial for fallen police officers in Dallas, trekked into Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, survived JR’s first-ever tram ride to Sandia Peak near Albuquerque, and dutifully put arms and legs in four states at once at Four Corners.

Despite at least seven different types of chemotherapy, countless chemo treatments, and a stem cell transplant that left him quarantined at OHSU for one month, JR never lost sight of his goal to bring laughter and happiness to those around him.


"I'm at the point in my life where having fun and making people laugh are more important than being boring and worrying what people think,” JR explained when a photo of him wearing his favorite sock monkey hat appeared on Facebook. He would often wear the hat when he was busy working on weighty projects, to make sure nobody took things too seriously.


JR was also known as a prankster. Friends and family quickly smile and cry from laughter with stories involving JR setting off fireworks near a friend’s camping trailer, pantsing his brother-in-law in public, and giving his driving students a few extra life lessons along the way.

In the midst of the fun and goofiness, JR had a strong Christian faith. He profoundly believed that God loves everyone and forgives each person, no matter what transgressions we make in our lives. JR strove to extend this same forgiveness to those around him and to live by the Golden Rule of treating others the way he wished to be treated.

JR’s memorial service was held on December 17, 2016 at his home church in Battle Ground. Cherry Grove Friends Church was filled to capacity with friends, family, former co-workers, and past students. The ripples of JR’s life extended far as people traveled from throughout the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and Pennsylvania to celebrate and honor the impact of his life.

JR did not want his funeral to be one of sadness, crying, and somber black clothing. Instead, per his request, all those in attendance wore either camouflage or tie dye (what JR referred to as “urban camo”), many for the first time. Despite inevitable tears of sadness, there was much laughter and joy at seeing such a colorful clash of fashion. Just as JR wanted.


The family respectfully asks that any donations to celebrate JR Roberts’ life be made to a place very dear to his heart: Twin Rock Friends Camp, PO Box 6, Rockaway Beach, OR 97136

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Tale of the Tinsel Llama

It began with a weblink. No words, no explanation, no introduction. Because none were needed. My friend Robyn was certain I would know what to do when she sent me this:


I quickly replied:
OMG! I just showed it to Rob with great enthusiasm!! His response: "I used to like her." 
Lucky for me, I have my own credit card. Hahahahaha!!

Because I have an amiable husband who has resigned himself to a life decorated with llamas, within a few hours I had swiftly negotiated the agreement of acquiring TWO Tinsel Llamas to bring sparkly holiday camelid spirit to our front porch.

Figuring I would just order them online from Target, what with their free shipping and conveniently fast delivery, I jumped on their website only to discover several arresting facts:
  1. The Tinsel Llama is not available for shipping. It must be acquired in person and picked up at the store.
  2. My most proximate Target (17 miles away) was the only one – THE ONLY ONE – in the entire Portland metro with any Tinsel Llamas in stock. Specially, they warned “Limited stock.”
  3. The Portland Metro = within 100 miles of Woodhaven.
  4. The Tinsel Llama is a Target exclusive.
With a totally justified sense of urgency, Rob and I dashed to Target as soon as the Seahawks game was over (hey, I do have other obsessions). As Rob drove, my fancypants smartphone confirmed that our targeted Target still had “Limited stock.” I breathed easier because who knew what other llama freaks (Shannon) might be swopping in.

We arrived at the store, trotted to the back corner, and deftly located a Tinsel Llama on display. It was even more adorable in person. The socks alone! Daaaawww! They were like little llama legwarmers from the '80s!

I only dreamed of being this fashionable in 1982.

Pawing through the boxes, we found Tinsel Foxes and Tinsel Mooses and Tinsel Wiener Dogs. Alas no Tinsel Llamas.

Rob hunted down a woman sporting a red polo, khaki pants, and the all-important Walkie-Talkie Scanner Gizmo.

Despite the website’s claim to the contrary, the employee apologetically confirmed the store did not have any Tinsel Llamas in stock. I thought everything on the internet was true. Fie on you, internet!

The nice khakied lady checked and double checked and summoned her manager at our request. Mr. Manager wouldn’t budge from the store policy not to sell display units. Something about liability issues.

I bargained with the manager, quietly fingering the zip ties that were holding my Tinsel Llama hostage on the shelving unit.

“What if we agreed to sign something that said we release you and Target from any responsibility for any injuries that might come from the Tinsel Llama?”

“No. Sorry. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

To his credit, Mr. Manager Man maintained only a slightly exasperated, disinterested tone in the face of my llama zeal. Sadly, I doubt even trying to name drop by wearing my Rojo the Llama t-shirt would have helped my case. In fact, I sort of got the sense that might have only added to the manager’s not-quite-amused eye rolling.

My Tinsel Llama dreams dashed, I moped back to the car. On the way home, Rob and I both had the same idea.

Back at Woodhaven, we started punching zip codes of family members into the Target search field. Although no Tinsel Llamas were to be found near my family in Idaho, there was ONE left in a store about 15 minutes from Rob’s family in Southern California. OMG!!

At 7:30pm, I sent my mom-in-law a text explaining the dire circumstances and asking if I were to buy the ONE REMAINING Tinsel Llama in Orange County, would she and Dad be willing to go pick it up and ship it to me. I included this photo from the display at my Target so that she could fully appreciate the intensity of the situation.

Irresistible, right??


One hour and three agonizing minutes later, I got a text back that said, “Yes, we can do that.”

Hallelujah!! I clicked the “Purchase” button that my finger had been hovering over for about an hour. I then anxiously awaited a confirmation email that my order was ready to be picked up.

At 8:44am the next morning, I sent Nancy the heartbreaking news.

Not only did I get an email that the ONE REMAINING Tinsel Llama was no longer available at the Orange County store, my replacement order at a different store an hour away (Rob assured me it wasn’t too far – his dad loves to drive?) had already been cancelled because the internet lied AGAIN.

“I guess it wasn’t meant to find a home on our porch after all.”

Sad emoji.

After I thanked my most awesome in-laws for their willingness to be a part of my goofy llama quest, I found myself back on the Target website with my address book in hand.

Have no doubt, if I know your zip code and I thought there was the barest of possibilities I could bribe you into driving to a Target to pick up a llama lawn ornament, I checked all Targets within an hour’s drive of your house.

No Tinsel Llamas were to be found in certain parts of Texas. Or Indiana. Or Virginia. Or Iowa. Or Montana. Or Wyoming. Or Northern California. Or Arizona. Or North Dakota. Or Pennsylvania. Or Minnesota.

I did find THREE in a Target outside of Boston. I was ecstatic until I Googled the driving distances from the houses of my three Massachusetts friends. With the infamously bad Boston traffic, the small herd of Tinsel Llamas was at least 2 hours away from any of my Beantown friends. BOO!!!

At this point I decided it was best to accept reality. I busied myself with laundry as I tried to bat away visions of Tinsel Llamas dancing on our porch.

At 3:19pm, I received this text from Rob’s dad:


I sent him a selfie from our laundry room to speak the thousand words of my emotional state.

Yes, that is a Fa La La La Llama t-shirt.

Feeling only slightly guilty for being greedy, I texted back: “I have been given clearance to acquire two of them. Is there by any chance more than one there??”

“Not at this store,” Dad replied.

I assured him one was plenty and I danced victoriously amongst my lights and darks.

A mere 35 minutes later, the Best Father-in-Law in the World texted me this photo with the caption “Motto: The difficult gets done immediately… the impossible takes an hour or so longer. Love, Dad.”

This is now my most favorite picture of
my father-in-law EVER. Not just because there
are llamas in it but because Dad was
willing to go in search of them for me. ❤

I screamed. I startled the cats. And I called my amazing father-in-law and left a high-pitched, squeaky, hyperventilating voicemail informing Dad he is magical and wondering if he might be in Boston because by my in-depth research, that was the only location in North America with at least two Tinsel Llamas lurking about.

Dad has yet to reveal where or how exactly he accomplished the impossible. I suspect he never will. All I know is two boxes arrived at Woodhaven very recently. With some assembly required and la-la-la-la-la "I didn't read that part" warnings about the llamas not being toys and should not be played with, we now have two adorable Tinsel Llamas and one VERY HAPPY llama lover still giggling with joy.

The Story of the Tinsel Llamas (plural because there are TWO OF THEM!) will henceforth be added to the lore that is the legacy of the best father-in-law to ever walk the planet.

Who's the luckiest llama lady ever? Me!
Thank you, Dad and Nancy -- you guys are the BEST!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The swirl of life

It’s hard to believe that it was just three weeks ago that the world felt like it shifted off its axis. Don’t get me wrong; my Facebook feed is still frothing with political intensity on both sides. I’ve become so adept at scrolling past anything political, I actually made myself dizzy last week.

But in the midst of the protesting and calls for recounts and the confusion about who we are as a country, the universe has been making it very clear to me that day-to-day life still goes on.

I am a detail-oriented person. I like the nitty gritty of things. So I guess it is within character that my thoughts and spirit are pulled towards the more micro things in life: the people around me, my relationships, my community.

I am grateful there are people – many of my friends in fact – that are drawn towards the macro things. The policies, the philosophies, the patterns of history, and the desire to affect our global, cultural future. It gives me peace to know that those folks are handling the big stuff while I attend to the small.

And so in the wake of history, I have decided to leave the big world stuff to others while I tend the garden of my smaller world.

In just these past three weeks…

I found out a dear friend’s mother is taking her first steps down cancer’s path. And I have cried and prayed and felt utterly helpless as another dear friend's walk down that same path seems to be coming to an impetuous, unavoidable end.

I have rejoiced in the arrival of a friend’s beautiful grandbaby abounding with shiny black hair. And I have shared the heartbreak to learn he has meningitis.

I have been gobsmacked to learn of the disintegration of a marriage that I assumed was rock solid. And I have beamed with pure giggly girly joy watching a very eligible and patient woman realize she has finally found the man she’s been waiting for.

I have walked with a friend as she questions her faith. And I have listened awestruck to how a recent accident is reviving the faith of another.

I have been in the hospital waiting room anxiously waiting to see the surgeon smile and tell me Rob’s gallbladder removal was successful. And I have shared my physical therapy exercises spreadsheet with a friend whose rotator cuff surgery last week was a little more involved than expected.

I have lost sleep, I have cried, I have been mopey. And I have had tears of gratitude, literally skipped with delight, and wondered how in the world I ever got so lucky.

Life swirls, sometimes faster than we really think we can handle. Sometimes we are in the ripples, sometimes we are in the vortex. I’m so grateful that I always have people to hang onto…and that I can offer my hand as well.

Big world or small world, I think we’re supposed to swirl together.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Democracy for the win

I’m not a political person. At least not publicly. I absolutely have opinions, some of them rather strongly held. But I do not enjoy discussing politics outside of my marriage.

Rob and I have a long history of seeing the world differently, casting votes that cancel each other out, listening intently to try to understand, all the while maintaining and nurturing deep and profound respect for each other.

As we have aged and walked through life together, Rob and I have definitely shaped and influenced each other. We have both moved more to the center from our once very polar posts. But we still have times of unabated political disagreement and we still live together in unabashed harmony.

If we are any example, it can be done.

The past couple of days have been historic. There have been a handful of times in my life in which I was mindful in the moment that I was witnessing history. I suspect I might always remember the moment when the startling reality came into view and I murmured to the TV, Rob, and the cat, “Oh my gosh, he might actually win.”

I didn’t vote for him. I didn’t vote for her either. Nevertheless I have found myself welling up with tears at the most unexpected things the past few days. But they are not tears of despair.

I teared up as I realized I was witnessing a revolution. I cried because of the profound beauty of democracy. There was clearly a large number of my fellow citizens who felt lost, ignored, dismissed, and discounted. And our system, while messy and painful at times, worked exactly as it was designed. The marginalized have an equal voice and they used it.

Despite the words of fear, anguish, and disgust riddling my Facebook feed, tears of pride welled up as I realized every single defeated friend accepts that they have to wait four years to enact a different outcome. We can disagree, we can be seething mad, we can protest and shout...but we each understand and embrace our system. The foundation of our system is not broken. It is strong and it is respected, even when it produces results we don’t like. That is a beautiful thing.

I cried the most, though, when I read the following exchange a friend posted about a conversation she had with her 4 year old daughter.

Ellie: "Did we find out who is the president?"
Me: "yes."
Ellie: "I think it's Donald Trump."
Me: "You are right. It is."
Ellie: "I hope he will be strong and kind. He will be a good president if he's strong and kind, right mama?"

Leave it to a child to narrow the focus to the real point. No politics, no name calling, no FBI investigations or resurfaced recordings. Just the barest, simplest, most discerning understanding of what is supremely important in a leader. And a sincerely open heart and mind to the possibility that it exists in our President Elect.

Our nation changed a few nights ago. Conventional wisdom on how to run a campaign, how to do polling, who turns out to vote, and what issues are heaviest on our hearts toppled over in dramatic fashion. There is unquestioningly more change to come.

But underneath the effects is a cause as strong as ever. Democracy is one of humanity’s greatest creations. I am proud and grateful to be governed by it.



Sunday, October 9, 2016

Gray matters

Around this time 16 years ago, I was getting myself psyched up for my first back surgery scheduled for a week before Christmas. At the time it was simply “my back surgery” because I didn’t fathom there being more than one.

I was very busy being busy, keeping myself distracted from the anxiety and fear. Work helped, a fabulous vacation across an ocean helped, and a harebrained idea knocking around inside my head helped.

In a staff meeting in November, I boldly announced to my coworkers that I was going to bleach my hair blond in honor of my surgery.

I figured being housebound for months would be a perfect time to do something dramatic with my appearance with plenty of time to change back to “normal” if it was an epic failure. Plus, more importantly, it gave me something different and more exciting to talk about than the impending fusion of several vertebrae in my lower back.

I also knew that if I finally shared my idea out loud, I would go through with it. No chickening out once I spoke it to the universe and my friends.

And so, the weekend before my surgery I spent several back-achingly painful hours in a salon chair unsuccessfully trying to become a platinum blond.

“You have very strong hair. This is the best I can do,” the colorist apologized as I gaped at the mirror.

When wet, my blond hair looked like a cross between Big Bird and the Heat Miser. When dry, it looked like this.

My surgeon didn't recognize me and my roots
were showing by the time I left the hospital a week later.
For months I looked like a skate rat.

(Urban Dictionary: "A skater that has nothing better to do than skateboard,
so he/she skateboards every day of the week, no matter the weather or
condition, out of sheer boredom or desire to go pro or get sponsored.")

 

Something instinctively told me I would look better with whiter hair than yellow hair. Clearly, yellow is not my best color. But I wonder if white is?

I’m seriously contemplating finding out.

I’ve been coloring my hair since my mid-20s. I started out just plucking out the grays but when that lead to cramping arms and hamster-nest collections of hair strands in the sink, I introduced myself to Miss Clairol. We were buddies for a long while until she decided to reformulate herself. I then found a new friend in this nice lady.


Although Truffle and I have had a monthly date for years, I’m starting to think I might be ready to consider ending our friendship.

For several years I have found myself fascinated by women who have younger faces and white or gray hair. I envy their boldness to ignore societal expectations. I am in awe of their sense of self and self-acceptance. I crave their freedom to not have to build in the ritual of plastic gloves and smelly chemicals and timers.

About 8 years ago, I read an unexpectedly liberating book called Going Gray by Anne Kreamer. I don’t recall many details about the book now, other than when looking at lots of before and after photos of women who took the gray plunge, they all seemed to share a striking and noticeable peace and serenity in their “after” photos.

It was that discovery that made me resolve to allow my now unknown natural hair color to reveal itself sooner rather than later.

I arbitrarily decided I would ditch the hair coloring by my 50th birthday. Easy to proclaim when one is 41. I’m now a few months shy of my 49th birthday. With the expected 4-6 months grow-out process, it’s about to get real if I am going to keep my promise to myself.

I’ve mentioned my Freedom to Be Me plans to a few people over the past year or so. Pretty much every man has been neutrally disinterested or very encouraging. Rob assures me he will find me beautiful whether I am a brunette or a silver vixen…just as long as I promise never to go blond again. Can’t say I blame him.

Another woman’s husband quietly shared that he wished his wife would consider going gray because he sees how much pressure she puts on herself to project an image that is increasingly not authentically her. What an unexpected insight!

Women have had mixed reactions. Some have told me I could totally rock gray or white hair. But most have warned me away from my idea; some even literally yelling “DON’T DO IT” before I can even finish my “I’m thinking of going gray for my 50th birthday” sentence. I honestly don’t know if they are rejecting the idea of me embracing my gray or of a woman in general doing so. I’m not sure which saddens me more.

And so, here and now, I am speaking my plans more publicly. Out loud. To the universe and my friends.

Partly to get my plans out of my head, partly to seek wisdom and suggestions from women who have blazed the silver trail ahead of me, and partly because about 5 weeks after I start this epic journey in several months, there will be no hiding or denying it.

So stay tuned! And if I wear hats for six months, you’ll know why.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A whale of a good time!

When we first moved to the Pacific Northwest and started chatting with locals, it quickly became clear there are three places all Washingtonians must vacation. It’s just a given that you travel to these places. Because you are close and they are beautiful and it’s your PNWer duty.

Within our first four transplanted years, we managed to cross Alaska and The Oregon Coast off the must-visit list. Gold stars for the new residents! Both places indeed strikingly beautiful and both prompting repeat visits.

For some reason – mostly because we inexplicably tend to explore south and east more than north – it took us over 12 years to finally complete our Washingtonian Initiation Rites by vacationing in the San Juan Islands. Those gold stars were about to get revoked.

Having just returned from a four-day San Juan Island discovery, I am eagerly expecting our Welcome to Washington certificate and Newcomers Kit containing Dutch Bros. coffee coupons, Columbia Sport all-weather gear, and directions to the nearest Subaru dealer. Just in time for the rainy season (aka October-May)!

I have to say, I now understand the residency requirements.

The San Juan Islands are in many ways quintessentially Pacific Northwest. They are rugged and treed and damp. They are beautiful in the grey and dazzling in the sunlight. They require ferry boats to reach and whales and bald eagles are common sights. The residents are friendly and welcoming and earthy. There are yachts and yurts, arts and cannabis, artisan chocolates and locally sourced chickens.

There are four islands on the ferry schedule but really just two that most people visit.

While ferrying about, we met a couple who live on the less popular Lopez Island. They talked about how each island’s locals have their own way of waving to each other while driving. Lopezers raise their pointer finger. If you don’t wave or use the wrong finger, you are obviously a tourist.

We also chatted with Sister Mary Daniel who was shopping on San Juan Island for the retreat center she helps staff on exceptionally quiet Shaw Island. Her bounty included about 25 pounds of galvanized staples and a weed whacker. The image of a nun wielding a weed whacker is one I so wish I could share but I didn’t want to be disrespectful to ask for a photo.  Dang it.

We spent one day exploring San Juan Island – the most popular island in the archipelago. It has the islands' largest town (Friday Harbor, population 2,278) and is close enough to Canada that Verizon wanted to charge me international rates when we were on the west side of the island.

We visited on a Wednesday because we are rebels.

However, we spent most of our time on Orcas Island -- oddly not named for the orca whales who frequent the nearby waters. It has the tallest mountain in the islands (Mount Constitution at 2,398 feet elevation) and is shaped like Gilda Radner’s head from her Saturday Night Live days.

See?  Gilda.  You'll never be able to see an Orcas map again without seeing her.

We brought books and games and wine and tea and coloring books, expecting a quiet, slow, do-nothing escape. I was secretly hoping for a nice rain storm.

We read a little (mostly at night) and brought home some unconsumed beverages. We never played a game and I never broke out the Sharpies. Instead we found ourselves wandering, exploring, eating, riding boats, and searching for whales. Not quite as relaxing as anticipated but still great fun and a wonderful escape to new scenery.

The view didn't suck.

We quite enjoyed Orcas Island; when we return to the San Juans (because we will) we will likely stay there again. It felt more relaxed and meandery than the more touristy and action-packed San Juan Island.

Orcas’s main town (Eastsound) is about half-way around the island from the ferry terminal so it definitely requires a car to visit. We liked the town; it had some interesting local shops, a good variety of restaurants, and was very walkable. By that I mean flat. Because one thing about the San Juans – they are a hilly bunch.

I’m not sure I would have noticed the hills as much were it not for my 4.5 month post-op knee. Although my recovery is going splendidly, hills are still a bit of a challenge for my new ACL. They feel fine in the moment but a couple hours later, my knee has a lot to say about hills.

So I can report that Friday Harbor is a rather steep town right off the boat; Eastsound is delightfully flat right at the water’s edge. In fact, Eastsound is flat enough – right at Gilda’s hair part – that one day we walked all the way through town to the small airport and across Orcas Island to the other side. It was a 4.2 mile day and totally worth the aches for the experience. And bragging rights.

Victory selfie on the other side of the island!

Our last full day on Orcas we decided to go in search of the non-namesakes. We found a well-reviewed whale watching company nearby and set out on a small zippy boat with about 25 other eager whale spotters.

It was a good thing our boat was the fastest in the fleet because we had to motor about 40 miles to outside Victoria, British Columbia (we could see a cruise ship in port) to find a pod of killer whales. But wow, the trek and back-spasmy ocean bumps were so worth it!

The pod was about 7 or 8 whales thick with one baby. The island oceanographers have ways of identifying the local pods so our captain knew exactly which whales we were looking at.

Federal law says boats cannot get within 200 yards of the whales so we kept our legal distance. Nevertheless, we were able to see their white eye patches and hear them breathe. HEAR THEM BREATHE!

The orca pod was very soothing to watch. They swam in arcs in and out of the water with some rhythm and predictability. Typically only four dorsal fins were visible at a time but occasionally we would see six or seven. And then the fluke – seeing the tails flip up dragging ocean water along was soooo much better than anything at SeaWorld. There’s something so much grander and more exhilarating about seeing animals in nature instead of a man-made setting.

It's rather tricky bobbing in a small boat with a camera and
getting any photos that resemble a whale.  I'm quite
pleased with this one out of about 56 attempts.


Pod fins!

But honestly, even more than the orca pod, the most breathtaking part of our whale watching excursion happened towards the beginning.

We were in the waters off of San Juan Island (truly the island you want to be on if you want to see whales from land). Our captain had been radioed that a humpback whale was somewhere nearby. It wasn’t hard to figure out where because about three other boats with similar intel were bobbing around with eyes peeled.

Our boat got very excited when we spotted the water from the blow spout. And then that fluke thing happened. It was so cool!


The captain said that the fluke flip meant the whale was going for a deep dive which could last for up to 30 minutes but typically lasted only about 7-9 minutes. And so we bobbed some more.

When the humpback whale surfaced again, it did something truly magical: it breached. TWICE.

You know that whale-jumping-completely-out-of-the-water-and-doing-a-belly-flop thing that you see in National Geographic documentaries? That thing that whales do on command at SeaWorld but you can’t imagine ever seeing in nature? That whale thing that if I had managed to capture with my camera would have finally earned me a photography blue ribbon at the Fair? Yes, THAT! The humpback whale did THAT! With a curtain of water hanging from its fins and body and a wake that caused our boat to bounce.

It was nothing short of magnificent. I’m still in awe.

So yeah, that was our long put off trip to the San Juan Islands, complete with breaching whales. It’s now hard to figure why we waited so long. Since we’ve done most of the big scouting, I suspect on our next trip our games will get played and the books read and the Sharpies uncapped. It might even rain. And it will be just as perfectly Washington.




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bringing smiles one little X at a time

A couple of years ago, I attended a seminar where the speaker explained a concept of Big X and Little X.

The idea was that sometimes we do something for someone else that is really not that big of a deal, not much of an imposition, likely something we would have to be reminded we did. To us, a Little X.

But the impact on the person we do it for is huge. It is memorable. It speaks hope and love and care into their lives. It is a very big deal. To them, a Big X.

An example:

Several years ago, during a very busy, stressful, trying-to-hang-on-without-crying-in-public time, my mom – completely out of the blue – sent me a big box of my favorite candy. Attached to it was a note telling me to enjoy it while watching a movie. I know the exact words because I still have that box (empty, duh) and that note sitting prominently on a shelf above my desk.

It was a tiny Little X for my mom to send me that candy for no reason other than she knew I loved it as a kid. She probably has no memory of mailing it.

But for me it was a great Big X because it was the love and support and just-knowing of a mom at just the right time. It came at a time that I felt like I was taking care of a lot of people and there she was, with a box of Hot Tamales, taking care of me.



I have been thinking a lot about Xs the past few months as our church has been doing a series talking about, thinking about, and trying to practice encouragement.

I’ve been told I am a natural encourager. I suppose that could be true, as it didn’t take my handheld texting machine very long to learn I REALLY like the phrase “WHOOOO HOOOOO!!” Within a few weeks, my smartypants phone had added the phrase to its Autocorrect list. Oh to have a pom-pom emoji to go with it!


Over the past several weeks, I have conceded that it is pretty second nature for me to sprinkle little Xs around, give a high five or a word of praise or a perspective of hope to a friend or family member.

But to a stranger? Nope, not so much.

I’m relatively introverted. Stepping outside my safe little unpeopled box and presume to offer a word – kind or otherwise -- to someone I don’t know is a lot tougher than I wish it were.

But with this recent focus on encouragement – and the encouragement to be intentional about incorporating more of it into my life – I have challenged myself to take my Little Xs outside and boldly speak kindness into the lives of strangers.

It has been a blast.


Blast #1:
One day a few weeks ago, at the end of my sixth or seventh conversation with yet another credit card customer service rep about an issue that was taking far too long to resolve, I told the Citibank lady what I was really thinking.

I told her that of all the reps I had spoken to over the last several weeks, she was the one who tried the hardest to help me. I told her that even though she too wasn’t able to find a solution, I so appreciated that she was sincerely apologetic and shared my frustration. I thanked her for trying so hard and for truly caring.

Stunned silence was followed by words I could hear spoken through an enormous smile and lightly wet eyes.

“You have no idea how much that means to me. You just made my day!”


Blast #2:
Not long after the Fair was over, I started stalking the hysterical Cowgirl that made me and Rob laugh like that uncle in Mary Poppins. Hey, she invited us to stalk her! Sort of.

After talking myself out of it a few times, I finally decided to send Karen a link to the blog I wrote about her show. Yeah, sure, she gets applause and laughter, but words can be encouraging, too, right?

Within just a couple of hours, I got a reply.

“Wow wow wow! Thank you!!!” and “That just made my day!”


Blast #3:
There is an amazing 90-something year old woman at our church who has been running the overhead slides since the days they were actually slides. Apparently she used to sit next to the projector and change out transparencies of song lyrics as everyone sang along.

Nowadays, she and her cane steadfastly climb a set of stairs every Sunday to get to the computer containing the PowerPoint files of lyrics. Yep, Margie runs our PowerPoint and is determined to keep doing so as long as she and her cane can get up those carpeted stairs. She is freaking awesome!

As a part of this focus on encouragement, Margie’s fan club wanted to give her something in thanks and awe of the 40+ years she has been our Multi-Media Maven.

Inspired by some corn dog earrings I have (just go with it), I contacted a woman I’ve never met in West Virginia. I explained the situation, provided a photo snagged off the interwebs, and asked if she would be game for making a very special necklace for a very special lady.

What she came up with – on her first and only attempt – blew my mind. Such talent! And such perfectly delicious non-corn-dog goofiness!


Not long after Margie was presented her Projector Pendant, I took a picture of her wearing it and sent it to the lady in West Virginia. I decided she needed to know and see how much joy and laughter and appreciation her silly little necklace generated.

Within hours I got this reply:

“Thank you so much for sharing that with me! That made my day!”


As I reflect on the handful of heartfelt Little X’s I have recently strewn over strangers…and the almost verbatim “That made my day!” reaction I have received in return…it’s pretty obvious that this encouragement thing rocks. There's something magical about speaking genuinely felt positivity out into the universe.

Definitely with people I already know, but in a somehow more profound, more pronounced, more delighting-in-the-unexpected way with strangers.

And so, because there’s really no point in waiting, I am herby making an August 30th Resolution.

As of today, August 30th, I resolve to stay vigilant about handing out sincere Little Xs to strangers with the hope that at least once per week a stranger says to me, “That made my day!”

And in the process, I'm pretty sure it will make my day, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fair 2016 Recap -- After the Final Peanut Butter Cup

It’s been two full days plus some since my beloved Fair ended.

Life is slowly returning to normal. I’ve done some laundry, made a slight dent in the emails/voicemails/snail mail that arrived and remained ignored during Faircation, and slept. I’ve slept quite a bit. Ahhh.

As I lie here on the couch with an ice pack on my swollen-but-improving knee and sipping a fruit smoothie featuring fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and pineapple juice, I’m pondering some reflections about Fair 2016.


I’m not supposed to have a job
This year’s Fair was truly and sincerely so much fun. I hadn’t really realized how writing for the newspaper was slowly siphoning away the joy and carefree wonder of My Fair until I ditched my travel laptop and mobile hotspot.

Don’t get me wrong – I had an absolute blast in the beginning of my newspaper gig a few years ago. But it slowly became work as I tried to think like a reporter.  Please note: I am not one.

Instead of looking for angles and stories and keeping track of how many uploads I had done for the day, this year I simply went to the Fair. I didn’t repeatedly consult the schedule, I didn’t have a daily plan, I didn’t have a constant awareness of what time it was, I didn’t take notes.

I stashed my little notebook and pen in my Fair Swag Bag the first day. After three days of Fairing and not putting either to use, they spent the rest of the Fair on my kitchen table. When I think about it now, it should have been a sign that I was not Fairing well when my supplies included a notepad. Seriously, who takes notes at a Fair unless they are being paid?

Not taking notes changed my approach to writing, too. Instead of trying to make sure I noted and captured every moment and activity of The Fair for blogging reference that night, I just let the stuff that impacted me naturally rise to the surface of each day's story.

For instance, we thoroughly enjoyed watching pigs race and dogs jump any number of times but I never really wrote about them. At first I felt like I wasn't being complete, but soon I realized it was totally ok. It finally occurred to me that if I didn’t think to write about something, there really wasn't much to be said about it. To try to document it out of some self-imposed sense of obligation would have been forced and boring. At least for me and probably for you.

Ditching my notepad and simply writing about what I remembered brought back a joy and freedom that I didn’t know I had lost.

Rob commented several times this Fair how much he enjoyed having his wife back. The wife that is wided-eyed and relaxed and kid-like at The Fair. A brother noted that my smile in the endless photos this year was bigger and happier and more natural. Yes, there was mounting exhaustion in my eyes but it was always tempered by joy.

And I had no idea.

I am soooo grateful for the little voice in my heart last year that told me my time with the newspaper was over, and for Rob’s gentle but consistent reinforcement the past several months. And that I finally listened to both.



The sugar helped but not quite enough
Back around Memorial Day, Rob decided to give up drinking soft drinks. It was a pretty monumental decision because there’s really not much else other than wine that he enjoys drinking. And replacing his diet soda habit with wine would have led to a whole other set of issues.

So Rob has been reluctantly learning how to like water. I’m very proud of him that other than one unanticipatedly icky sweet sip of a Sprite several weeks ago, Rob has not given into temptations to return to his old drinking ways.

I gave up drinking soft drinks several years ago, although I do allow myself the indulgence occasionally. And always always always at the Fair. In fact, drinking Coke and root beer during the Fair is one of the many things I look forward to.

But this year, in solidarity and support of Rob’s new water habit, neither of us had any soft drinks while Fairing. What I realized on about the 4th day is this also meant no caffeine while Fairing. I hadn’t realized how critical caffeine was to my Fair experience until it was gone. Oooh, doggies, could we have used some energy boosting! But we both did sleep better when it was finally time for bed. Go figure.



I am pleased with how well my knee did during the Fair. Mostly.
I walked more each day at the Fair than I had in any given day after my ACL surgery in April. Granted, my average of 3.2 miles per day was not all in one stretch, but it was markedly more than the typical one mile I had been walking before.

Can you tell which days we didn't
Fair this year?


I tried to be as smart and as careful as I could be with my Fair knee. I walked slowly, rested often, and I was mindful of the Grandstand stairs and the few hilly spots scattered around the Fairgrounds. I also carried a daily one-time-use instant ice pack. Choosing the optimal icing time was a little tricky; most often it was in the late afternoon. And often with a snack.

Our favorite bench in the
Big Air Conditioned Building


I discovered that the packs from Target are better than the ones from Walgreens. I also learned that although the temporary packs aren’t nearly as good as the reusable one I have at home, they did do a much better job than my first solution:

Strawberry Mango Smasher
Very cold but not quite enough
surface area to make a good ice pack


I was also proud of myself that I kept to my M-W-F schedule of at-home physical therapy exercises. Yes, on those particular Fair days, prior to heading to lunch and 3ish miles of walking, I had already put in about an hour of sweaty knee stretching and strengthening.

Yep, I exercise in Crocs.  Not just Crocs, special Crocs for
people with plantar fasciitis.
#TooOldToBe48

So I was very focused and careful and consistent with my knee care. YAY!

But when I went to my physical therapy appointment on Monday – the first day after the Fair was over – Steve heard my confession, examined my puffy knee, and immediately grabbed the calendar to reschedule me. My knee was swollen too much to make Monday’s appointment useful. BOO!

If I’m honest and giving into my emotions, I will tell you that I’m a little nervous that I did something wrong and permanent and scary to my knee. If I listen to my rational self (also named Rob), I know that I simply worked my knee more than it was used to and of course it would react after that much walking.

It is definitely improving with the two days of rest and ice I’ve given it since Monday. So I am anxiously awaiting a thumbs up from Steve when I see him again tomorrow…hopefully for longer than 10 minutes.



The Fair inspires me in many ways
Somehow, almost every year, something happens at the Fair that prompts an online purchase.

One year there was an exhibit about music that included a display of 8-track tapes. Not long after the Fair, thanks to eBay, this bookcase d├ęcor arrived in the mail:

It reportedly still works.  I have no way of verifying that.


Last year, after attending a “Guess Who” concert – whom I was stunned to discover was not a cover band for The Who – Rob ordered me their Greatest Hits CD. I had no idea I knew so many songs by a band I had never heard of!

This year my Fair-inspired web shopping went a little into overdrive.

I am currently awaiting two new pairs of fair-food-themed earrings for next year, along with a new sign for our kitchen that a vendor was selling at the Fair but in the wrong color. A new self-inflating seat cushion was just shipped from Las Vegas. And yesterday we picked up my BRAND NEW ELECTRIC CANNER that was shipped to a favorite sales-tax-free store in Oregon. Merry Christmas to me!!!

Blackberry jam shall be its inaugural crop




The name for this heady phenomena is obvious but I’m resisting
You know how at Disneyland there are kids – and some adults – who walk around wearing hats that are literally Goofy? And when you first see them they look ridiculous? But then the more people you see wearing the hats, the more they start to look normal? And then you start thinking you might need one yourself?

I am relieved to tell you I never was tempted to acquire one of these:



But man oh man, they were everywhere!

Appropriately spotted in the sheep barn


One day we even saw an entire family wearing matching t-shirts featuring the “smiling pile of poo” emoji (which I learned last year is not actually a happy pile of chocolate frosting).

We decided -- and hoped -- that their last name is Brown


I can’t say I understand this current poo fascination. Other than to wonder if there’s a sudden epidemic of anal-retentiveness. The people who had their poo hats and plushies looked quite proud and very unwilling to give them up.

My favorite poo moment was one day when we were in the carnival area. A couple of grade school boys were running around, chasing each other. One was carrying a poo. I looked at him and then looked at Rob and posed the obvious question:

“Diarrhea?”



He really wasn’t planning it
Rob had an extra dose of fun this year. He started a daily series of statuses on Facebook with the premise that he was kidnapped and taken to the Fair. His first post:

“Day 1: I appear to have survived the transition easily enough, though the hallucination of people eating corn-dogs while driving *into* the fairgrounds was a little disconcerting.”

And by the way, that wasn’t a hallucination.

They both had them


Subsequent posts commented about things like being offered “…a chewy, chocolate, doughy food…” (deep fried Oreo).

His final post – which he thought of on the final day – was pure punny brilliance.

“Day 10: I survived. I made it through the entire fair without suffering a heart attack, an animal bite, a carney bite, or an empty wallet. Quite an adventure.
But now I find myself drawn back to the fairgrounds. While I have a comfy chair, I miss sitting on metal or wood benches watching animals being shown. The air in the house is so clean, yet I now long for the smells of cattle, sheep, goats, and llamas.
I'm afraid I've developed Stock-Home Syndrome.”

If you are not familiar with the psychological condition called Stockholm Syndrome, click here to fully appreciate how hysterical and beautifully master-minded Rob’s pun is.

Good Lord, my husband cracks me up!



I so hope there is more info and blogging to come

As mentioned before…I have mentioned this before, right? I’ve mentioned this?  I have made myself extraordinarily available to Princess Maddie’s mom should there be any schedule conflicts with Fair Court Duties and Mom’s Busy Schedule in the coming months.

You might imagine, then, how thrilled and delighted and hopeful I was when Maddie’s Mom let me take a peek at the tentative schedule for Princessing through next year’s Fair (starts on August 4, 2017 – mark your calendars!)!!!

The schedule is no less than three pages long, jam packed with parades and rodeos and horse shows and community events. Top of the list is Media Day, Shopping Day, and a photo shoot. How fun and Princessy is THAT?!?!

I knew the life of a Fair Court Princess was a busy one but seeing it in spreadsheet form made me more fully appreciate the commitment the girls and their families are making for the next year. I wonder if they knew they were making a three-page commitment?

A quick scan of the spreadsheet suggested a parent is required at about 90% of the appearances. I’m thinking there is a really good chance I might be able to tag along a time or two as Giddy Fair Court Mom In Waiting. And I hope…SO DEEPLY HOPE…I get permission to blog about it. Stay tuned!

SO FREAKING EXCITED!!!



Anyone else remember Larry Groce?
Some very kind people occasionally comment how surprisingly not unattractive the photos are that Rob captures of me eating. And I get it – seeing someone eat is typically not something you want to watch or see pictures of.

I always explain that Rob takes several photos for me to choose from, plus we have quite a bit of practice working together.

Nevertheless, I thought I would end this year’s Fair Blogs with a little video I made of some of the photos I chose not to use.  You’re welcome and I'm sorry.

Thank you all SO MUCH for joining me at The Fair this year! I truly, sincerely, honestly had a blast. Hopefully that was obvious.

Woodhaven Ramblings will now return to whatever topics strike me to ramble about. For about 350 days. And then it will be All Fair All The Time again!

Whoo hoo!

video
Be sure to have your volume on

Monday, August 15, 2016

Fair 2016 – Day 10

I’m sort of stunned that it’s all over.

In one way it seems like months ago that I was opening my Fair Drawer and packing my Fair Swag Bag with Tums and sunscreen and pain meds. But in most other ways, it seems like my favorite 10-day holiday just got here and can’t possibly be over already.

Today was an absolutely wonderful day. It started a bit early and ended late and was packed with so many reasons to smile that my cheeks actually hurt a little (the other ones, too – turns out my self-inflating seat cushion has a small leak so I will be acquiring a new one in the off-season for all my Grandstand needs). I also found myself on the verge of tears a few times, but every time was out of joy and gratitude for 10 days of utter delight and fun.

In the next few days, after some sleep and figuring out what life happened while I was on Faircation, I will be posting one last Fair blog. A recap with some reflections and behind-the-scenes sort of stuff. So stay tuned for that.

But first…because I can’t bear the secret any longer, THIS HAPPENED:

She also got a very prestigious award for showing
kindness, encouragement, diligence, and
confidence during the competition. No surprise there.


Maddie won, Maddie won, Maddie won!!

Yes, my most favorite Fair Court Contestant EVER secured a spot on the 2017 Fair Court! She is officially a Princess!! OMG OMG OMG!!!! I am just beaming!!!

Could our smiles be any bigger?


The logistics
Three girls were chosen today as Princesses. Over the next six months, they will get some training and participate in some holiday parades and get a little exposure and practice for The Big Stuff that kicks into gear next June. During those six months, the girls will be carefully observed. In February there will be a Coronation and the Queen of the Fair Court will be announced. I don’t have to tell you that I WILL BE THERE!

Today’s publicly viewable competition started at 11:00am with speeches, modeling, Q&A, and a fun word-association game to see how the girls think on their feet.

The contestants then took a few hours’ break to change clothes and get their horses ready. The final event was a horse competition in which they rode around an arena simulating parade and public event activities they would encounter as a Princess. Things like calmly walking their horse past people with balloons or umbrellas, making their horse back up and stop, dismounting and remounting, carrying a flag, and my favorite – riding around the arena really fast while doing that warp speed rodeo hand wave thing while also making sure their hat doesn’t fall off.

Laura, Emily, and Maddie


Setting the stage
I arrived at the Blue Gate just minutes before the Fair officially opened at 10:00am. The Fair was just waking up; it was so quiet and peaceful. Vendors were arriving, employees were having breakfast, booths were getting set up, no pan flute music was playing.

I was by myself because Rob had some duties at church; he joined me later. I should mention that it was a pretty big deal for me to skip church today. I only miss it when we are traveling or if I am sick. Despite my love of the Fair, some things do come first.

But today was extra super duper special. I am sure God understands. Besides, without planning it, a number of folks from our church skipped service this morning to support Maddie. We sort of had our own mini-congregation under the Jest in Time Circus Tent. So it was almost like being at church, except with milkshakes and corn dogs and cameras. Can I get a hallelujah?

Maddie definitely had the biggest – or at least loudest – cheering section. We were quite enthusiastic. So much for Quakers being stereotypically quiet.

Maddie was Contestant #4…out of what became four instead of five contestants. On Wednesday the contestant list included a current Princess; she was competing again to see if she could continue a second year. But for some reason – trust me, I really don’t know – she withdrew from the competition a few days ago. She was there today, though, as a current Princess and doing a great job at it.

In all honesty, I was relieved to learn Shaylee withdrew her name even though I was certain she would earn a spot on the Court again.

On Wednesday, as I watched/stalked Maddie and the other contestants, I noticed that sometimes Shaylee had to be a contestant and other times she had to be a current Princess. It looked exhausting.

But more than that, I wondered if it would be disappointing and difficult not to be able to fully participate with your Princess sisters in the final days and duties of your reign because you were busy trying to make it all happen again. I feared Shaylee might be missing out on some of the best parts of the Fair Court experience by competing a second time.

So for whatever reason Shaylee decided to remove her Contestant #5 sash, for her sake I am glad she did it so that she could fully and completely soak in every last bit of being a 2016 Fair Court Princess.

They were a great Fair Court!


The Speeches

All four girls did a fine job being up on stage for 15-20 minutes each. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it and maintain such composure and unwobbly knees. Especially in cowboy boots.

Anna – Contestant #1 – has a background in theater so she is presumably very comfortable on stage and in front of people. And for the most part, she was today. She did a great job with her bio and her memorized speech…until she had a little brain fart and blanked out. Man, I hate when that happens. At 48, it seems to be happening with more frequency. Gah.

Anna rallied as best she could but she never completely recovered. I felt bad for her. I did admire how she deftly worked in the various sponsor names in the word association game. And she was very endearing and made me laugh when she went off-script and referred to herself as being “derpy.” I plan to incorporate that word into my vocabulary.

Emily was Contestant #2. She immediately had my attention when she shared that her favorite thing about parades is the candy that is thrown to the kids. That’s my favorite thing, too. I often come home with quite a stash. I suspect she was being more of a grown-up, though, and was referring to be the thrower.

I also liked that Emily’s speech shared a personal story from her childhood and she allowed herself to be a little vulnerable in telling it. That took guts and poise and she had both.

Contestant #3 was wearing my favorite colored shirt (lime green) so I liked Laura right away. She was bouncy as she modeled her fabulous shirt and skirt across the stage so I thought she might be a bouncy sort of person. Instead she surprised me by being very linear and somewhat reserved.

She was very prepared but wasn’t particularly spontaneous. She didn’t seem as comfortable as some of the other contestants with the Q&A and word association games. I really appreciated that she talked about being on her school’s robotics team and math being her favorite subject. She was multi-dimensional. I liked that.


And then there was Maddie. Trying very hard to be objective, I noticed she was excited but nervous. She flipped her curly hair a bit – mostly because her hair is rarely not in a ponytail and is never curly. She also absentmindedly played with the tail of her contestant sash because, well, as long as I’ve known her she’s never worn one of those, even to church. So those two things were a little distracting.

BUT Maddie was by far the most natural and authentically herself on stage. She had everyone laughing with her candid answers to the Q&A (she apologized that her least favorite movie is “The Notebook” because she really doesn’t go for all that lovey dovey stuff) and word association (the first word that came to her mind when told “food court” was “AWESOME!” – now you know why I adore Maddie so).

Maddie also was totally unfazed when the music paused awkwardly during her modeling and later when some papers blew around on stage during her speech. She just smiled and kept going like a true pro.

See the papers on the stage?  I think they
belonged to the Marketing Director


The Horsey Show
I know nothing about horses or how to ride them and make them do stuff. So I watch the horse competition purely as your average clueless Fair-goer. I look at the bouncy hair and the pretty horse and the warp speed rodeo wave. These are important to me.

Overall, I thought #3 (Laura) and #4 (Maddie) did the best jobs with their horses. Their horses largely did what the girls wanted them to do and were totally unfazed by the parade simulation. Both girls did great carrying a large flag around the arena and both waved really fast with their hand in front of them as they whizzed past us.

The other contestants struggled a bit with their horses or remembering the pattern they were supposed to ride. I noticed one was sort of slouchy when she was carrying the flag. I have no idea if posture is important for flag carrying but since I cluelessly noticed it, I’m guessing it might be.

I also noticed that one girl did her warp speed hand wavy thing with her hand more out to her side instead of in front of her. Again, that might not be important since I have no idea what I’m talking about but it was something that I wrote down in my little notebook. Yes I take notes. I look more official that way.


The Results
After flowers were bestowed and thank yous were gushed and tears were choked back for the Fair Court that was ending its reign tonight, it was time to find out who our three new Princess are.

Even though I was completely certain that Maddie’s name would be called, I still screamed and shouted and cheered and smiled almost as big as she did when it was confirmed.

That smile!

I truly couldn’t be more excited or proud of her. As the Fine Fair Folks will soon find out, Maddie is fun and goofy and bubbly while at the same time totally unflappable and very discerning and responsible and intentional. Maddie is aware of situations around her and knows how to present herself accordingly.

I have no doubt that come February, Maddie will be our new Fair Court Queen. And honestly, I would be saying that just based on what I saw today. The fact that I know how much more there is behind the fluffy hair, megawatt smile, and stunning white leather dress makes the inevitable that much more obvious.

And yes, I have already made it abundantly clear to Maddie’s mom that I am utterly and eagerly available to fill in as Second Mom if her busy schedule needs some reinforcements. I am at the ready to help out with anything not involving a horse. I’m yearning to learn how to curl hair and am willing to drive to events at wee hours. Yes, unabashedly to get a sneak peek into the Fair Court Princess World. But even more to support and love and cheer on a very special young woman that I am proud to know and call Princess.



Saying good-bye
Beyond the Fair Court competition, today was a heart-and-tummy filling day of just wandering around, chatting with friends, hanging out with the llamas, watching bits and pieces of favorite shows, riding the Ferris wheel one last time, and mostly just saying good-bye to my most favorite time of the year. That dang lump in my throat almost got in my way of eating. Almost.

I also said good-bye to a few friends.

As we left the Fairgrounds for the last time, we stop and chatted with John. He mans the Mt. Hood Territory Tourism booth. We met him a few years ago when somehow we started comparing notes about fairs and fair food. A day at the Fair now is not complete if we haven’t waved to or chatted a bit with John. This year we learned that his most favorite song EVER is “The Sound of Silence” — but only if it is played on the pan flute. Repeatedly. For 10 days straight. Ideally from a neighboring booth.

I also am now officially following “Washington Smashers” on Facebook so I can figure out how to get my fruit beverage fix during the off-season. I so enjoyed getting a chance to meet Stan the Smashers Man this year. I am also very touched by his sincere well-wishes for my continued knee recovery. Hope to see you again soon, Stan!


My final treat of the final day of the Fair was my beloved deep fried Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from the Deep Fried Heaven Truck (officially called Sweet Cheeks). I hadn’t had one yet; it was time.

As we waited for my delectable, we waved and smiled at Eric inside the truck. He is so sweet and always makes us feel like deep fried friends.

I asked the cashier if the truck happened to sell t-shirts like the ones the employees were wearing. Because it is the perfect shirt to wear to the gym as soon as I’m cleared to return there.

The cashier was pretty sure the shirts weren’t for sale but confirmed it with the owner. Jackie came out of the truck and we started chatting. We had not met before but it wasn’t long before she understood that I am something of a Super Fan of both her products and the Fair. She said shirts might be for sale next year. Then she looked at me for a long pause and asked, “How much longer will you be here tonight?”

Before I knew it, Jackie was offering to walk out to her trailer and grab me a company shirt. A half hour later, this happened.


It is not lost on me that my farewell tour of the Fair and the friends I made there involve food vendors.

I love my life!


STATS:

Walked: 7,833 steps or 3.3 miles. Except for a couple of days, I was freakishly consistent with my Fair mileage this year.

Re-entry animal: Pig…or so we were told. We closed out the Green Gate at 10:20pm

Tums: None?!

Knee Scar Band-Aid:

A little girl in line with us for the Ferris wheel
complimented me on my Band-Aid choice

Earrings:

Not a fun fair food today but carefully chosen.  These
have purple rings -- and purple is the color of the
Fair Court. Also, the purple rings are made from
the same kind of surgical metal that some
rods and screws in my back are made from.
And my back definitely needs to be
represented -- it did very well this Fair
all things considered.  Thank you, Back!



FAIR FOOD FEAST PARADE:


I feel like I ended my feasting on a good note. I revisited some favorites, finally ate a few others, and somehow managed not to overdo things to the point of popping antacids. Whoo hoo!

With Rob’s late arrival, I was left to attempt selfies while eating. Selfies with my regular camera, not my phone, so I couldn’t see what I was doing. Simultaneously eating, keeping my eyes open, and taking a picture was much more challenging than anticipated. Rob is amazing Staff. I missed him.

The Final Parade of 2016:

My breakfast with some of my favorite people. Oh to be
one of them!  Scrambled egg, hash browns, and chocolate
milk.  The egg and browns are doused in ketchup and
Tabasco.  Got this entire meal for $5 at the Lions Booth.


Chocolate milk!  Wow, that stuff is good!
Back to the boring white stuff tomorrow...


Lovely selfie of me eating the scrambled egg.  I took
several shots.  This was unbelievably the best one.


And the hash browns.  So delicate.  Oh, I miss my
photographer!


Raspberry peach milkshake.  First time trying this combo
and I liked it!


My photographer is back!  And I'm *still* working on
the Spree box.  I have about 1/3 of the box left.


My last Smasher of the 2016 Fair.  My new go-to combo
of Strawberry Mango.  I'm all about the customized
combos this year.  Thanks, Stan!


White cheddar kettle popcorn.  So good!  I love the salt
and the light cheese.  I have about 1/3 of this left, too.
Rob helped a little.  He was surprised he liked it.


Frozen strawberry lemonade from the corn on the cob stand.
It almost gave me brain freeze several times but was
otherwise good.  I think I prefer the pink lemonade better;
it's less artificial tasting.  Yes, I know that's sort of a
ridiculous thing to say about anything at the Fair.


The exceptionally messy Mexi-Dog.  Hot dog with salsa,
nacho cheese sauce, sour cream, and jalpenos.
I used a lot of napkins but no fork.  Go me!


A deluxe elephant ear from the Malt Shoppe near the
milkshake barn.  Fried dough with sugar, cinnamon, butter, ice
cream, strawberries, and whipped cream.  Rob and I
planned to share it but we didn't finish it.  It was not made well.
Others around us looked right, so we just got one they should
have tossed.  The line was long and there were noises they
had just run out of strawberries and Rob ate the ice cream and whipped
cream so we decided not to ask for any money back.  Instead we
went to the Deep Fried Heaven Truck for redemption.


The Grand Finale:  deep fried Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
I saved the best for last.
The End.